CI bowl a Scots’ favourite

Friday February 22, 2019 Written by Published in Culture
The feast bowl in the grand gallery of the National Museum of Scotland. 19021221 The feast bowl in the grand gallery of the National Museum of Scotland. 19021221

A wooden feast bowl said to have been from the Cook Islands is popular with visitors to the National Museum of Scotland.



The bowl is among 12 million objects and specimens in the museum’s collection.

According to the Art Newspaper, the museum’s director Gordon Rintoul named the “massive wooden feast bowl’”from the Cook Islands as a favourite.

Rintoul believes this was once owned by a Tahitian princess who probably settled in Fife, Scotland, in the late 1800s.

He said the artefact stands today in the Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh as a testament to the country’s connections with the wider world.

“True to its earliest origins in the Scottish Enlightenment, the museum is a place where people can explore the whole world under one roof,” he said.

The museum is said to have completed its fourth and final phase of an ambitious transformation project, initiated by Rintoul in 2004.

The process has carved out 50 per cent more public space and revealed more than 6500 objects that had spent decades languishing in storage—including the princess’s imposing “feasting bowl”.

According to the Pacific Collections Review, the feast bowl is known as an umete, comes from Atiu and the boat-shaped bowl is carved from a piece of tamanu wood.

It is understood that in 1871, Parua, the high chief of Atiu, gifted this bowl to a princess of the neighbouring Society Islands and it was transported there by canoe across a distance of over 500 miles.

The bowl was inherited by the Tahitian princess, Titaua, whose second husband was a Scottish businessman, George Darsie.

Together they ran a plantation trade and labour business. In 1892, they retired to Darsie’s hometown of Anstruther, taking the feast bowl with them. In 1895 Darsie sold a number of objects to the Museum, including the bowl, as well as Polynesian jewellery, tools and a chief’s headdress. 

Feast bowl fact file

Date: Pre 1870s

Made in: Atiu, Cook Islands, South Pacific

Made from: Tamanu wood

Dimensions: Height 91cm, length 366cm, width 97cm

Belonged to: Princess Titaua of Tahiti

Acquired: Purchased from Titaua's second husband, George Darsie. Titaua adapted well to life in Scotland, and she and George Darsie had three children. She died in 1898 and is buried in Anstruther Easter Churchyard, Scotland.

                - Losirene Lacanivalu / The Art Newspaper

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